OK, who punked me? I didn’t see the hidden cameras but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they were there. Stopped by the post office today to mail one (one!) package. The line was out the door, easily half an hour long, but this didn’t faze me because all I had was one flat-rate mailer and I knew I could use the automated postage machine. Only three people in front of me in line there.
The first of them had a longish transaction. No worries; we all know I’ve been that person before. The next woman punched buttons for a few minutes, frowned, and said “It won’t take my package.” She beckoned for the next customer, the man in front of me, to take a crack at it. All he needed were stamps, and the machine spit them out with no problem.
By this time a postal worker had joined us, an official-looking personage smartly dressed in a red and black suit. She re-entered the package lady’s particulars, then shook her head and said, “Nope. Won’t take it. I’m sorry, you’ll have to wait in that line.”—pointing toward the twenty-odd people waiting miserably for a turn at the counter.
The poor woman trudged off with her single small jiffy-bag. I lingered a moment, hopeful, as the postal worker swiped a badge and rapid-fired a code into the machine. Another woman stepped forward, carrying a keyboard and some kind of electrical gizmo.
“This is going to take a while,” she told me apologetically. “I have to recalibrate the whole thing.”
That’s about when I started to wonder if I’d been set up. But the forlorn jiffy-bag lady stood slumped in the conga line, so I determined that Ashton Kutcher was unlikely to leap out from behind the Evergreens Collection signboard. (Evidently, though I find this hard to believe, post-office punkings of suburban mothers just don’t fetch the ratings.)
Well, my sad and untelevised tale does have a happy(ish) ending. I got back in the van full of kids—we were heading home from the girls’ piano recital—and drove home the long way, stopping off at a tiny partial-service USPS station I recently found tucked between a liquor store and a gas station. (Because you know how much time I spend skulking around liquor stores and gas stations.) Lines are short there, usually, because you can only do certain kinds of transactions. There was one customer at the counter, and a man in line ahead of me—but he saw through the open door that I had kids in the car and insisted I go in front of him. Which was so sweet and unexpected that I wound up being kind of glad the machine in the main branch had gone bust.
It is amusing just how much of my holiday cheer is happening in the post office this year!